Tuesday, August 16, 2016

"If There’s Shootin’—As I Expec’—You Two Come a Runnin’"

If you define a "series" as being comprised of at least two parts, then we think we've come across another series amateur sleuth character who so far hasn't been designated as such, Jimmy Calton, a creation of our old pal Murray Leinster. We know for a fact that Calton appeared in two stories published in All-Story Weekly pre-1920 (they're featured below); we're not sure, however, if there might have been more. A story entitled "Fingerprints," also in All-Story Weekly prior to these two, could be a Jimmy Calton adventure, but we can't find a copy of it anywhere.

As you read, be prepared for Leinster's not altogether successful attempt at dialect writing, in this case "translating American slang into ’dobe Spanish"; trying to painstakingly reproduce local dialects was once quite popular, especially in Anglo-American fiction, but has since fallen into desuetude.

"Grooves."
By Murray Leinster (1896-1975).
First appearance: All-Story Weekly, October 12, 1918.
Short short story (7 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE.
"Jimmy Calton spends his time discussing how most people observe the world, mentioning Sherlock Holmes and Nick Carter in passing. Then he gets the op-portunity to put his observations into practice when he runs into some Mexican bandits."
If you're going to have a revolution, you'll be needing a lot of money. Should your crowd-funding campaign fail, you might try to get a loan from the bank—but there is another method that involves a lot less paperwork: steal it. If, however, you can't grab it outright, then kidnap someone important to whoever does have the money and extort it from them. And that's just what a two-bit border revolutionary does to the wife of a wealthy mine owner; not a brilliant plan, certainly, but one that's usually effective. The whole thing would've worked, too, if Jimmy Calton hadn't got involved.

Jimmy's friend, a newspaper reporter, tolerates Jimmy's sometimes tiresome aw-shucks demeanor, even if it means putting up with his unremarkable thinking:
Jimmy, as a story-teller, was amusing, but as a philosopher he was dull.
You'll have to judge for yourself just how deeply Jimmy's philosophical musings actually go after hearing him say things like:
"When a man is lyin’ he’s pretty sure to be plausible. When he contradicts him-self he knows what he’s talking about."
~ ~ ~
"Evidence."
By Murray Leinster (1896-1975).
First appearance: All-Story Weekly, July 12, 1919.
Short short story (6 pages).
Online at Pulpgen HERE, ManyBooks HERE, and Jerry's House of Everything HERE.
"Jimmy Calton decides to get involved in a murder case, and takes part in an inquest into the murder. Is there such a thing as too much truth being presented in evidence?"
We're constantly being told that truth is relative, depending on how you look at it. In this instance, Jimmy Calton proves that telling the truth can result in a lie, and that an innocent man could get hanged because of it.

Bonus Story:
Here's a much later and more sophisticated Leinster tale (as by Will F. Jenkins, his real name):
   ~ "Night Drive" (1950), text (HERE, 10 pages, PDF); audio at Forgotten Classics (HERE: 58 minutes 28 seconds—story starts about 19 minutes in).

Resources:
- "Grooves" takes place during a largely forgotten period of American history known as The Border War (1910-19); see Wikipedia (HERE) for more about that turbulent time. Additionally, the fact of a major character being sinistral and how that helps to resolve the situation should go a long way towards dispelling the mythology that has accrued regarding that condition; see Wikipedia (HERE).
- A lengthy tribute article about Murray Leinster in his SF pulpster mode is (HERE).
- We last met up with Leinster (HERE).

The bottom line: "I've never noticed that being nonsensical keeps things from happening. Don’t you ever read about politics?"
— Will F. Jenkins

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